Drones offer a wide range of features and are widely used to accomplish numerous tasks. The technology of using an Unmanned Arial Vehicle or (UAV) is constantly being refined so that their scope of utility can be widened. One of the tasks UAVs or drones are used for is mapping areas. An Irish team comprising of experts from CeADAR and ProvEye have secured €250,000 in European funding for a new project, which is aimed at developing a new way to map and monitor threatened habitats.
Surveying endangered habitats using Drones
The overall global biodiversity loss is estimated to be between 25-40% with over 75% of the world’s land now having been changed by human activities. Many natural habitats are under immense pressure due to human activities such as conversion to agricultural land and the impact of climate change. To ensure the sustainability of such biodiversities and natural reserves, which are protected under the national or European Law, routine monitoring needs to be set up.
Monitoring helps us understand what is causing harm to such habitats. The EU requires Ireland and other member states to produce maps periodically for threatened habitats in Europe. This new project aims to employ and analyse novel Machine Learning-based models for mapping numerous protected habitats in Ireland.
Using ML and drones are also expected to mitigate the traditional feet on the ground survey approach, which is considered expensive and time-consuming. Traditional techniques using remote sensing are also said to be not efficient enough to handle mapping large areas. The new project has been co-funded by Enterprise Ireland and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement.
“This project is at the cutting edge of this research area as we look to test the ability of UAVs (drones) and satellites to map and monitor Ireland’s most threatened habitats. Leveraging specialised imagery taken across five test sites in Ireland, the team will build machine learning tools that can automatically map and monitor the status of these habitats over time, enabling the Irish government to fulfil its requirements under European law. These tools will be state of the art for such tasks and have widespread implications for the protection of habitats in Ireland and throughout the world,” explains Dr Jerome O’Connell, manging director of ProvEye.
CeADAR and ProvEye to work together
The project that grabbed this funding is using drones for surveying natural habitats. It’s also supposed to help save time and money for the Irish government while meeting the legal EU requirements to protect ecosystems. The teams involved in the project are Machine Learning experts from CeADAR and drone specialists from ProvEye.
ProvEye is a private company that employs advanced software to assimilate detailed data from images collected via drones and other platforms. The University College Dublin spinout operates from NovaUCD and it is built on IP developed by Dr Jerome O Connell and Prof. Nick Holden. This IP was optimised and commercialised for use with UAV optical data supported by the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund between 2017 and 2019.
CeADAR is Ireland’s National Centre for Applied Artificial Intelligence, which is funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. The centre has over 80-member companies across a wide span of industries and is one of 30 Digital Innovation Hubs across the EU focused on delivering AI services to the industry. Its primary work is to work on applied research and developing and deploying industry prototypes and solutions to companies. It is headquartered in University College Dublin and is a partnership with the Technological University Dublin (formerly the DIT).
The motivation for these two entities to come together stems from the increasing need for high-quality habitat maps, which help in monitoring the status of protected habitats.
Image credits: ProvEye